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Jonathan Bernstein

Does Anyone Really Support Stephen Moore at the Fed?

Donald Trump’s pick for the Federal Reserve Board gets a not-exactly-ringing endorsement. 

With friends like these ...

With friends like these ...

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

What’s worse than damning with faint praise? How about damning with no praise at all.

Stephen Moore’s campaign for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors got a little boost on Monday with the publication of a letter of support from 105 economists and conservative activists. We’ve all seen this kind of thing before: A president’s nomination for an important position gets in trouble, and either the nominee, the administration or a group of supporters acting on their own tries to show that the candidate in question is perfectly acceptable. 

Only this time? Here’s the entire text of the letter: “We, the undersigned, support Steve Moore’s nomination to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve.”

Seriously? They apparently couldn’t even agree to strongly support him. There’s no praise for his qualifications or his judgement. There’s no talk about what a genuinely nice guy he is. Nothing.

As for the signatories? It’s not exactly a who’s who of distinguished economists. As Sam Bell noted, “This letter of support for Stephen Moore does NOT include John Taylor, Glenn Hubbard, Kevin Warsh, Larry Lindsey, John Cochrane, or many other notable conservative economists.” And I have to say I’ve never seen a letter like this so dominated by retired professors – I counted 25 of those who signed it as either retired or emeritus. That doesn’t disqualify them from having expertise, of course, but it’s certainly unusual.

If you want to see a contrast, consider the expressions of support that came in for Brett Kavanaugh when he was trying to get confirmed for the Supreme Court. One group of notable lawyers, containing several big names, wrote in “strong support” of a man they considered “outstanding” and listed several qualities that, in their view, made Kavanaugh an excellent choice. Another supporting letter came from retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy’s former law clerks. When sexual misconduct accusations against Kavanaugh emerged, women who had worked with him in the George W. Bush administration wrote another letter defending him

Those kinds of letters for an embattled nominee, or in this case a prospective nominee, are perfectly normal. Most nominees for such an important position can find that level of support. What’s extraordinary is that Moore apparently can’t.

1. Vanessa Williamson at the Monkey Cage on “filer-voter,” the idea that paying taxes would also register citizens to vote

2. Richard Skinner at Mischiefs of Faction on one of the sillier defects in the Constitution: the requirement that presidents be “natural-born” citizens.

3. Rick Hasen on what to look for in Robert Mueller’s report.

4. Also a very good one from Dahlia Lithwick, who sets the Mueller report in the context of the many ways President Donald Trump isn’t fit for the office he holds. Exactly correct. It doesn’t necessarily tell us what Congress should do about it. But it’s important to look at Trump for who he is, and to note the many ways he regularly violates his oath of office. 

5. Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent on asylum and how Trump makes policy (or at least pretends to)

6. And my Bloomberg Opinion colleagues have plenty of ideas about how to improve the tax code.

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